SYCAMORE – For 80 minutes, the Sycamore and Kaneland girls soccer teams tried to figure out each other Tuesday.
The Spartans tried to break through an organized Kaneland defense and beat Daily Chronicle All-Area goalkeeper Jordan Ginther, and the Knights tried to counter attack their way to victory.
But neither team gained an edge in the scoreless tie, and now the two teams will play for second place in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East in the second leg of a home-and-home series that concludes today.
“I liked what we did on the field,” Sycamore coach Dave Lichamer said. “I would’ve liked maybe some stronger chances in front of the goal, it seemed like we were settling maybe for a little bit of range. I’m sure thinking about who’s in the goal makes you second-guess or re-think some of your shots.”
The Spartans (6-9-2, 5-1-2 NI Big 12 East) controlled the flow of play for most of the match.
But they couldn’t create the type of chances that could come close to beating Ginther, especially in the first half.
Most of Sycamore chances came from outside the penalty area, and that had plenty to do with Kaneland’s (8-4-3, 5-1-2 NI Big 12 East) freshman sweeper, Sage Schlehofer, who was in the right spot time after time to intercept through passes and to stop the Sycamore attack.
“I couldn’t ask for a better sweeper, I’m proud to have her in front of me,” Ginther said. “If I didn’t have her in front of me, there definitely would’ve been more breakaways and harder shots.”
But Sycamore did have a few opportunities to score.
Katherine Kohler had the first legitimate chance of the game for Sycamore in the 20th minute when she took a shot from outside the penalty area, but her attempt went wide.
In the 43rd minute, Sycamore’s Alyssa Maillefer took a volley from the top of the box that went just wide.
Kohler finally broke through the Kaneland defense in the 52nd minute, when she charged into the box, but Ginther came off of her line to corral the ball before the Sycamore junior could shoot.
The Spartans had perhaps their best chance of the match with just more than three minutes remaining when Maillefer dribbled to the corner of the penalty area and took a hard shot to the near upper corner, but Ginther deflected the shot away.
Despite the strong defensive performance, Kaneland coach Scott Parillo wasn’t ecstatic about his team’s play.
“Not one of our better efforts,” Parillo said. “We’ve got to come out with a little more intensity tomorrow. Sycamore’s a good team … It’s going to be a battle. I think we realize that now. Nothing’s going to be easy about this. I think we certainly have respect for Sycamore.”
Injuries to Sycamore’s Alyssa Hemmerich and Lauren Miller may affect today’s match, and the Spartans will have to make a few tactical adjustments if they want to break open the Kaneland defense.
“We’ll have to change what we’re doing right in front of the box,” Lichamer said. “It’s going to be different movement up top. I don’t know if that’ll necessarily mean different personnel up front … If Lauren’s out, we’ll certainly have to shift our lineup.”